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6 Homeschool Tips from an Injured Dad - by John Clark

6 Homeschool Tips from an Injured Dad


During some downtime icing his damaged ribs, John Clark spends more time with the kids. He relearned & reinforced several critical points on homeschooling.

As I write this, I am at home recovering from a rib condition. For the past several weeks, in addition to icing my ribs and writing semi-relevant blogs and columns, I have spent quite a bit of time homeschooling the kids.

During these weeks, I have learned or re-learned several points, and had several beliefs about homeschooling reinforced. I’d like to share some of these realizations.

Hopefully, these homeschool tips can help you stay on track.

1. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect.

If my wife waited for everything to be perfect, we’d have never made it past our first date. Before they begin, a lot of moms and dads want the perfect homeschool classroom, the perfect books, the perfect kids, the perfect… whatever.

Embrace imperfection. Take it from me: imperfection isn’t that bad.

Whether it’s starting homeschooling, starting a new year, or starting a new day, just get started.

2. Buy more highlighters.

I thought about making this Tip #1. Maybe you can teach effectively without highlighters, but I can’t. If I may speak pedagogically for a moment, highlighters are the most meaningful invention since movable type. I can think of dozens of academic uses but I’ll mention one in particular.

Since you may have to teach more than one child at a time, have the children highlight the concepts they are struggling with or don’t understand. Toward the end of the day, help them with the highlighted sections from their work.

3. Ask your children what they learned today.

At the end of the day, review what the children have learned, and why it matters. Say, for instance, the kiddos are studying the Michigan-Ohio War of 1835, which was a series of disputes, arguments, and various un-pleasantries over which state would claim the city of Toledo.

At the end of the day, you can ask your kids about it to see what they remembered.

Another benefit to having your kids learn one thing every day is that once you get to be my age, you begin to forget something every day. Your kids learn something; you forget something. So in the aggregate, your family is Even Steven.

4. Once your child understands the concept, move along.

As a parent, you can tell when a child understands something, and when he doesn’t. Try not to spend too much time reviewing concepts they already know. My rule as a parent is this: Don’t make your math whiz of a child do a 1,275 single-digit math workbook quiz unless you’re willing to take that same quiz yourself.

5. Pay your older kids (in cash, coins, milkshakes, whatever it takes) to help the little kids with reading.

I have nearly reached the stage of parenting when all my kids have outgrown “sounding out” letters. If my life were expressed in terms of world epochs, the previous two decades would be known as the Phonics Age. At a certain point, hearing consonant blends “sounded out” becomes, well, disconsonant. My solution is to have the big kids help the little kids.

I love teaching my kids. I love teaching them about Aristotle, word origins, grace, Shakespeare, and how to take ACT tests. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I usually learn stuff when I teach my kids, and I like learning stuff with them. But (and I say this with every shred of humility that I can muster), I haven’t learned a darned thing about Phonics since I was five.

Here are a couple of things you’re unlikely to hear any teacher say: “In the world of phonics, we’re all learners,” or “Have you ever looked, I mean really looked at the STR blend? It’s majestic!”

If you have older kids, fight back against the chronic unemployment problem in America: hire them to teach the younger kids.

6. Incorporate videos into the homeschool process.

I understand the basic dilemma: you’ve got two (or seven) kids to teach, but there’s only one of you. But there’s good news: the huge amount of available videos. Seton has been producing lots and lots of educational videos for the past few years. (I’ve even made a few of them myself.)

So you can be teaching your high-school kids with awesome Catholic videos in one room while you’re listening to your younger kids sound out letters in another. It’s the closest thing to academic bi-locating since Venerable Mary of Agreda walked the Earth.

There you have it: six tips from a Dad who may be injured, but is still in the game.

About John Clark

John Clark is a homeschooling father, a speechwriter, an online course developer for Seton Home Study School, and a weekly blogger for The National Catholic Register. His latest book is “How to be a Superman Dad in a Kryptonite World, Even When You Can’t Afford a Decent Cape.”
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